Saturday, December 17, 2022

Confused about Papal Authority & Infallibility? Joy Is at Hand

Of all the topics avidly discussed nowadays by Catholics aware of the state of affairs in the Church, surely one of the most frequent must be the exact nature and scope of the papal office. Many available resources are unhelpful either because they were written in the preconciliar period when a sort of church-patriotic Pius XII ultramontanism was riding high, or because they are written by well-meaning authors who are just not sufficiently equipped in history and dogmatics to do justice to a complex subject. The same problems recur today on popular videos across YouTube.

Enter John Joy, author of the newly-released Disputed Questions on Papal Infallibility

Dr. Joy,
whose doctoral dissertation at the University of Fribourg On the Ordinary and Extraordinary Magisterium from Joseph Kleutgen to the Second Vatican Council (Münster: Aschendorff, 2017) broke new ground in clarifying magisterial terminology and who served as Senior Theologian to the Bishop and Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Madison, brings the necessary tools to the table. He has chosen the ideal format, the scholastic disputation (objections, sed contra, response, replies to objections), in an effort to bring greater clarity to the topic.

The first question concerns the extension and limits of papal infallibility in general; the second question concerns particular cases of papal teaching, including
Evangelium Vitae, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Humanae Vitae, Quanta Cura, Exsurge Domine, and Unam Sanctam. A number of essays further develop key points, including what we are to make of Pope Francis’s change to the Catechism on the death penalty.

The First Vatican Council solemnly defined that the pope teaches infallibly when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, from the chair of St. Peter, which is the chair of truth. Since then, theological discussion has centered on the subsidiary questions as to how often and under what conditions he does so. Here there are two errors to be avoided: the very real phenomenon of “creeping infallibilization,” according to which almost every utterance of the pope is regarded as being (at least practically) infallible, and the equally dangerous tendency to interpret the conditions for papal infallibility so restrictively as to render the dogma almost meaningless.

Paradoxically, these opposite tendencies seem to be almost equally widespread among Catholics in general. One constantly encounters the idea that the pope has spoken infallibly only twice—that is, in defining the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary—and yet, it is also everywhere assumed (indeed, often by the same people!) that no pope could possibly teach anything false in any of his official teaching on faith or morals. 
As is so often the case, the truth lies in between. Dr. Joy as a skillful Thomist threads the needle: a maximalist where warranted and a minimalist where warranted.

This succinct study brilliantly clarifies some of the most controversial and confusing questions in Catholic ecclesiology today.

The Table of Contents and the Preface may be viewed
here as a PDF. The book is available in paperback or as an eBook, from the publisher directly or from (here) and its platforms around the world, as well as from other online retailers.

Dr. Joy's work is part of the "Os Justi Studies in Catholic Tradition" series.

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